Petition handed to Home Office urging government to reunite child refugees with families

Children from Oaklands Secondary School in Bethnal Green and Families Belong Together campaigners in

Children from Oaklands Secondary School in Bethnal Green and Families Belong Together campaigners in Westminster, London, holding multi-coloured letters spelling out 'Families Belong Together' before handing a petition in to the Home Office, as they call on the government to amend the UK's refugee family reunion laws. Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

A group of protesters from East London - including refugees and human rights workers - have walked to the Home Office to hand over a 75,000 strong petition demanding child refugees are reunited with their families in the UK.

Andy Hewlett and Nina from the Refugee Council, outside the Home Office, London, before handing a pe

Andy Hewlett and Nina from the Refugee Council, outside the Home Office, London, before handing a petition in. Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA Wire.

The law currently allows adult refugees in the UK to sponsor their families to join them here, but children do not have that right.

A group of students from Oaklands School in east London, some refugees and human rights workers walked to the Home Office on Wednesday to hand over a 75,000 strong petition demanding child refugees in the UK be with their families.

Amnesty International said the petition is asking the government allows child refugees in the UK the right to sponsor their close family, an expansion on who qualifies as family, so that young people who have turned 18 and elderly parents can join their relatives, and a legal aid for refugee family reunion cases.

The march organised by Families Together Coalition of which Amnesty is a member came after the government refused to accept an amendment to the Brexit bill that would have guaranteed refugee children to join relatives in the UK.

Children from Oaklands Secondary School in Bethnal Green and Families Belong Together campaigners ho

Children from Oaklands Secondary School in Bethnal Green and Families Belong Together campaigners holding multi-coloured letters spelling out 'Families Belong Together' walking from Westminster to the Home Office. Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA Wire.


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Children from Oaklands Secondary School in Bethnal Green and Families Belong Together campaigners holding multi-coloured letters spelling out 'Families Belong Together' walking from Westminster to the Home Office to hand a petition in, as they call on the government to amend the UK's refugee family reunion laws.

MORE: Here's who voted against protecting key child refugee rights after Brexit

Campaign manager at Amnesty International UK, Tom Davies said that the "cruel and restrictive rules" needed to be removed and that child refugees needed to be made a "priority".

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He said: "Here in the UK there are many vulnerable children who need to be with their families and being separated from them is not a good thing and the Government is doing that intentionally."

SNP MP Angus MacNeil, who marched with the students, said: "The pressure is on the government to make this change".

He told the PA news agency: "In nearly all countries in Europe children have the same rights of family reunion as adults do.

"Bizarrely in the UK doesn't do that and its been resisting to, the Tory Government has been resisting to give children the same rights and have their families with them.

"It's not a big ask actually," he added.

SNP MP Angus MacNeil in Westminster holding a 'Families Belong Together' banner. Photograph: Philip

SNP MP Angus MacNeil in Westminster holding a 'Families Belong Together' banner. Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA Wire.

He added: "Unfortunately the government isn't going to take any action unless pressure is placed on them."

MacNeil claimed former leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom and whip Rebecca Harris were of "no help" during his private members' bill on the issue but he hopes for a "change of heart and that the right thing is done in the end".

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